Saturday, December 19, 2015

RIP Tommy 'Snuff' Garrett



Snuff Garrett, Record Producer Who Made a String of Hits, Dies at 76




The New York Times 
By Sam Roberts
December 23, 2015

Snuff Garrett, a former Texas disc jockey who was forsaken by his own music teachers but became a millionaire by the time he was 30 producing records for Bobby Vee, Del Shannon, Gary Lewis & the Playboys and other artists, died on Dec. 16 in Tucson. He was 76.

The cause was cancer, his wife, Nettie, said.

Mr. Garrett began producing records in 1959, working for Liberty Records in Los Angeles. At the time, Liberty was best known for novelty records by the Chipmunks, but with Mr. Garrett recruiting artists and finding material for them, the label became a major force in pop music.

His first significant signing was Bobby Vee, a singer from Fargo, N.D. Mr. Vee’s recording of “Take Good Care of My Baby,” which Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote, was his only No. 1 record and Mr. Garrett’s first. (Mr. Garrett collaborated with Ms. King on a new opening for the song.)

Of all his productions, it was his favorite, Mr. Garrett said, because “you only get one first No. 1 song.”

Mr. Garrett signed Gary Lewis & the Playboys in 1964 after discovering them performing at Disneyland. (Mr. Lewis is the son of the comedian and actor Jerry Lewis.) The group’s recording of “This Diamond Ring” reached the top of the Billboard singles chart in 1965 and sold more than a million copies. It was the first of seven Top 10 singles the group would have in less than two years.

The arranger of “This Diamond Ring,” and many other Garrett productions, was Leon Russell, later a successful recording artist in his own right. Another studio associate of Mr. Garrett’s was Phil Spector, the flamboyant and influential producer who was later convicted of murder.

Mr. Garrett left Liberty after seven years and formed his own company. He went on to work with, among many other artists, Vicki Lawrence, whose “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” was another No. 1 single, and Cher, whose Garrett-produced solo records in the 1970s included the No. 1 hits “Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves,” “Half-Breed” and “Dark Lady.”

He also produced a series of instrumental albums under the name “The 50 Guitars of Tommy Garrett” and scores for Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds movies.

Mr. Garrett found success outside the music industry by presciently buying the rights to hundreds of Republic and RKO films in 1976 and releasing them for home viewing as the videotape revolution was beginning. He retired in the early 1980s to a ranch in Sonoita, Ariz.

Thomas Lesslie Garrett was born in Dallas on July 5, 1939. His father, also named Thomas, was a lawyer and bail bondsman. His mother was the former Lila Ables. He got his nickname, derived from Levi Garrett, a popular brand of snuff, in junior high school.

His first two marriages ended in divorce. In addition to his third wife, the former Nettie Sanford, he is survived by four daughters, Gwen Garrett Godfrey, Gretchen Garrett, Dawn Garrett Harris and Lesslie Garrett Gunderson.

He quit high school in the ninth grade, was hired as an errand boy at a local radio station and then left for Hollywood with the hope of getting into the music business, but the closest he got was selling records in a store on Sunset Boulevard. Returning to Texas, he talked his way into disc jockey jobs in Dallas, Wichita Falls and Lubbock.

After tiring of stunts like broadcasting for a week from a car atop a flagpole to promote an automobile dealership (he was credited with the sale of some 50 Renaults), Mr. Garrett persuaded a former co-worker from the Hollywood record store to help get him hired at Liberty, where he was promotion director before becoming a prolific producer.

In 1968, he sold the several independent companies he had created to Warner Bros. for more than $2.2 million.

Despite his instinct for identifying successful singers and songs, Mr. Garrett was not much of a musician himself.

In an interview with Tape Op magazine in 2009, he recalled taking guitar lessons in Dallas for three years as a youngster.

“Finally they told my mother, ‘Mrs. Garrett, we know you’re a single mother and we don’t want to take your money,’ ” he recalled. “ ‘We want to tell you that Tommy has no musical talent whatsoever. None.’ Years later I got a call from them saying, ‘Sorry. We were wrong.’ ”

“I didn’t know one piano note from another,” he continued. “When I had my first four hits I hired a piano player to come over and teach me piano. Three weeks later he said, ‘While I’ve been trying to teach you to play “Blue Hawaii” — which you haven’t learned yet — you’ve made a fortune. You don’t need to know music.’ ”


GARRETT, Tommy ‘Snuff’ (Thomas Lesslie Garrett Jr.)
Born: 7/5/1939, Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.
Died: 12/17/2015, Sonoita, Arizona, U.S.A.

Tommy Garret’s – record producer - western LP’s:
Six Flags Over Texas – 1962
Bordertown Bandido – 1964
El Hombre – 1968
Mexican Leather and Spanish Lace – 1969
Bob Nolan: The Sounds of a Pioneer - 1978

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